Lovely technology

In technology’s steady march onward, older ways of doing things are abandoned, lost, left for dead on the side of progress’s highway. Yesterday’s tech is sneered at, put down, and said to be good for nothin’. The new tech is better, faster, slicker — and certainly cheaper, from a manufacturing point of view, being less expensive in time, materials, or energy.

Kent’s LA2 compressor

But the gleaners eventually come. The scrapheaps are discovered, evaluated, stripped, sorted. Dead-ends and really cheap crap is tossed. Elders are consulted in how this stuff used to work. And the technology is brought back to life in new ways, with new eyes, and with vision more often backed by art than commerce.

Deconstruct consumerism. Question the traditional modes.

Rob’s typographical sequencer controller

Recontextualize the devices.

Brian’s GainClone amplifier

Today’s technology tends toward the invisible. How small and compact can we make it? How can we remove the spiderweb of cabling? We want transparency; the device is only a player of content. But there is texture we have lost, and that is being rediscovered.

J├Ârgen’s homebuilt synthesizer modules

Something magical happens when technology is appropriated in such a way as to become art in itself.

Peter’s Minimal Sound Sculpture

Published in: on 11 February 2007 at 12:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Ah, the warmth of digital…

From an audiophile headphone site, a couple of amazing (and somewhat inscrutable) threads on the inherent sound qualities of computer sound cards:

  • Looking for a sound card that is warm and musical. (Currently have 1212M)
  • Upgrading fr Audigy2 ZS platinum Pro to Emu 0404 or Emu 1212m : Day and night diff?

    I’m not sure of the context here: are these guys just using these soundcards to digitize vinyl to play back later, or are they using their computer system as some sort of ultra-fancy hifi receiver?

    Either way, they’re describing the effects of the various sound cards, if they are good, as “warm,” “musical,” or with a “wider soundfield.” These are attributes usually used when talking about analog gear, often in contrast to the analog domain. The unsatisfying cards are labeled “uninteresting” and “analytical.”

    We’re observing the audiophile world, which has a peculiar, extreme consumer fetishism. In this case, the sound card has become a component in an audiophile system, and so is peered at and dissected in the same way an amplifier, turntable, or speakers might be examined. There is nothing wrong with this, really — a listener should evaluate all points in the signal path.

    Like the pro audio world, equipment is not entirely sacred: it can be modified, and several posters in this thread have replaced certain components (usually amplifier chips; hence the references in the threads to “opa637”). However, the pro audio world replaces components to reduce noise or expand the frequency response. I’m fascinated that the audiophile folks are modifying the circuits to tweak the sound itself.

    I’m not saying any of this is invalid. It’s just interesting to me that the pro audio world looks at digital primarily for accuracy and transparency (primarily for recording), and uses analog to shape and warm sound, while the audiophile world either disdains digital entirely, or imposes the conventional desires onto every segment of the signal chain.

    How far can this go? Will Windows XP SP1 be looked back at as having a “sweeter” sound than later versions? Will there be a particularly listenable computer system, highly sought after, obscure, manufactured by a tiny firm in the back alleys of Akihabara, that is rumored to sound even better than pure analog?

  • Published in: on 8 February 2007 at 10:28 am  Comments (1)  

    Why not to run a commercial studio

    From craigslist:

    Looking for a high quality recording studio between Portland and Salem with rates between $12-$20 an hour.

    And this isn’t necessarily very low-ball, either. The going rate for small studios seems to be about $25/hour, or $250/day. Imagine buying $50k of equipment + studio construction and trying to recoup that cost, plus pay yourself (assuming a lone engineer/producer). Eek.

    Published in: on 3 February 2007 at 10:27 pm  Comments (2)  

    Banging my head against the bits

    The first time I used a computer for music was in the early 1980s. This was long before most computers had any sort of built-in sound generator, besides a single-tone feeping speaker. I used the trick invented by geeks several decades earlier: set an AM radio next to the computer, write a looping program that sleeps a certain time between iterations, and listen to the somewhat-musical radio interference emitted by the CPU and picked up by the radio.


    Published in: on 30 January 2007 at 12:51 am  Comments (1)  

    It’s the sound, dummy

    Perhaps I should set the context here. After all, a recording studio exists to record sound, and here I am writing about the studio. What about the sound? What, in the end, am I producing?


    Published in: on 29 January 2007 at 11:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

    An introduction

    Recently I decided to build a recording studio. This was not a completely new idea, as I’d built up a small 8-track studio back in the late 1980s, and often considered re-building. But times and technologies have changed, as have I, in the last couple of decades. Over the years, I’ve dabbled in digital recording, but found the products and workflow to be frustrating, and not conducive to creating music. My efforts usually ended with frustration or boredom.


    Published in: on 28 January 2007 at 9:28 am  Comments (1)